Dollar Tree discounts worker safety at two Tacoma stores
L&I inspectors fine company for repeatedly breaking regulations
TUMWATER — A company with a long history of safety issues is facing nearly $55,000 in new fines for knowingly and repeatedly violating safety rules at two of its Washington state stores.
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) inspectors found boxes stacked perilously close to collapsing — potentially onto workers — at Tacoma Dollar Tree stores on Pacific Avenue South and Steele Street. In 2019, the company was cited and fined $500,000 for breaking the same rules, resulting in one of the largest L&I fines ever issued.
In addition, both stores were cited for blocking access to electrical panels, which contain emergency on/off switches. At the Pacific Avenue store, inspectors also found employees were not protected from falls while working at heights over 8 feet. The total penalties for this store are $33,920. Penalties for the Steele Street store add up to $20,720.
“We’ve fined Dollar Tree more than a million dollars for violating safety and health rules over the past nine years. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be getting the message,” said Craig Blackwood, assistant director of L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “We’ll continue to hold them accountable until they show they value the safety and health of their workers.”
Unsafe storerooms equal unsafe employees
The violations are not unique to Washington. Nationally, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores, which are owned and operated by the same company, have been cited for improper stacking of merchandise boxes, mostly in their storerooms, and for blocking exits or impeding pathways.
The Virginia-based company has dozens of stores throughout Washington. Dollar Tree’s corporate office controls inventory for local stores, and shipments arrive frequently. Challenges with too much inventory and not enough storage space lead to high stacks of boxes, often leaning over, which cause blocked and impeded pathways and other hazards.
Improperly stored merchandise can fall, resulting in serious injuries or death if the boxes strike employees or cause employees to fall, or if exits are blocked during an emergency. Lifting heavy boxes onto over-the-head stacks is also likely to cause strains and sprains or serious back injuries.
Dollar Tree has appealed the two latest Tacoma store citations.
Matt Ross, L&I Public Affairs, 360-706-4857.